When your main focus is client services, you need a vision to distinguish yourself from competitors. You need the skills and knowledge to excel in your work. You need to hire the right team to execute on your vision. You need to impress your clients time and time again. You need to build up a trusted brand, and you need to maintain that trust throughout the lifetime of your digital agency.
The list goes on and on.
But over the past decade, I’ve learned that all these ingredients always comes back to three factors: communication, collaboration, and quality. Here’s why the “Big Three,” as I call them, are so important.
In any relationship, communication reigns supreme. And if you want to succeed in business, you must first and foremost see it for what it is: a web of relationships.
The most obvious relationship is that between the client and the service provider in this case the digital agency. From initial conversations to the creative process to the final handover, communication plays a crucial role at every stage. In addition, and no less important, are all the relationships within one’s own team. If different individuals in different roles aren’t constantly syncing up and coordinating their work, things will deteriorate quickly. I’ve previously written about what happens when there’s a breakdown in communication, and it’s not pretty.
Thankfully, we live in a time where there’s no shortage of technology to streamline communication. Slack has been very powerful for keeping our entire team in sync, and we’ve even begun experimenting with inviting clients to discuss ongoing projects. We also use Trello for project management, allowing us to create checklists, set due dates, and generally keep the team marching toward the same goals. Finally, there’s nothing like picking up the phone when there’s something pivotal or sensitive to discuss. Sometimes it’s best to hear the emotion in someone’s voice rather than deciphering it through written word. You can always follow up with a quick email to confirm details, and to ensure things are documented in a public forum.
Keeping clients, and the entire team, abreast of everything going on from start to finish is paramount to the success of individual projects and, ultimately, the entire business.
As you may have already guessed, the “Big Three” factors are deeply intertwined. If you prioritize communication, for example, then it only makes sense that collaboration will follow.
Collaboration deserves to be highlighted separately, however, because it’s vital that you make the client feel like they’re a partner in the design process. From initial conversations and planning through discovery, building, and implementation, we involve the client every step of the way. This goes deeper than “back and forth revisions” where we check off all the client’s requirements: we literally want our clients to feel that they have a hand in the process—they are a co-creator.
Technology-wise, there are a few ways we do this. Google Drive has been foundational to the success of our business because that is where we write proposals, keep project requirements up-to-date, and maintain spreadsheets for budgets and estimates. When it comes to presenting wireframes and prototypes, Invision is an awesome, efficient way to communicate ideas visually to the client. Finally, we love Google Hangouts for video conference calls, allowing us to share screens if needed or dial in other participants.
Whatever systems or technologies you put in place, what’s most important is that incorporate collaboration from the start, as that will prove integral to the success of your projects.
If you’re nailing communication and collaboration, then you should have no problem producing a level of quality that will satisfy your clients.
But is that enough?
Meeting a client’s minimum requirements will let you wrap up the project and submit your invoice, but that shouldn’t be the end goal. Make no mistake: the client will recognize if you’ve only performed the bare minimum just to get a job done.
At Lift UX, we’re constantly aiming to exceed client expectations. Certainly, we do this because it’s the right thing to do, but I must admit there are extra advantages. For one, we don’t see our clients as one-time customers but rather partners for potentially many years to come. When we’re putting the finishing touches on a project, we try to imagine how our clients would perceive the work. Would they be merely satisfied, or would they be so pleased that they’d be thrilled to work with you again?
Furthermore, we’re always thinking about new potential clients. When we show our samples of previous client projects, we want to share something that greatly exceeded expectations rather than some run-of-the-mill work. In short, we want our name to be perceived by clients, prospects, and partners as synonymous with “quality.” And the only way that happens is by repeatedly doing quality work.
In my years of experience running Lift UX, I’ve learned quite a bit. And some lessons repeat themselves. More often than not, those lessons hammer home the importance of creating quality work, the value in making collaboration central to every project, and the absolute impact communication has on everything else.